A Narrative Inquiry into the Professional Identities of Individuals with Disabilities

Smith-Chandler, Natalie (2011-12)

Thesis (MEd )--Stellenbosch University, 2011.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Employment in capitalist society forms the foundation of social, economic and political order where most individuals between the ages of 18 and 65 are assumed to be in a position to procure gainful employment in their areas of personal interest. Despite the move to democracy, based on the principles implicit in the Human Rights Movement, individuals with disabilities continue to exist as among the most economically disadvantaged groups in society where they are subject to the sustained effects of discriminatory and prejudicial attitudes in the workplace. This is compounded by the pervasive impact of lack of skills development; poor access to education and training; lack of awareness from employers; disabling environments and poor policy development. The purpose of this narrative inquiry was to explore the alternative stories of six individuals with disabilities who are currently employed in the mainstream labour sector as a means to gain insights into individual experiences of obstacles and facilitators to inclusion in the world of work. A narrative inquiry approach, embedded in a critical, emancipatory research paradigm formed the methodology for this study. This thesis was considered through the lens of an integrated theoretical approach, drawing on poststructuralist and social constructionist thought, interspersed with "episodes" of Lacanian psychoanalysis to attend to aspects of internalized oppression. Six individuals with disabilities, employed in the mainstream labour sector, were selected from three sites, using a purposive sampling method. Data were collected by way of two in-depth unstructured narrative interviews, constructed by way of personal experience stories (Squire, 2008; Riessman, 1993) and life stories (Atkinson, 1998) as a means to explore participants‟ unique life experiences and how they have constructed and asserted their professional identities in the world of work. A dual analysis process (first descriptive, then interpretive) was employed to bring structure and interpretation to the collected texts. Descriptive analysis involved the re-telling of participants‟ personal experience and life stories, using Clandinin and Connelly‟s three dimensional narrative inquiry space, whilst interpretive analysis sought to attend to the universal stories of disability using thematic analysis and synthesis. The key messages from the narratives revealed that in spite of the fact that many individuals with disabilities demonstrate immense loyalty, low rates of absenteeism, commitment and a range of skills, talents and abilities, disability continues to be conceptualized as an inferior status which inevitably creates widespread marginalization due to the pervasive effects of stigma, fear and ignorance. Many are not privy to vital education and training options as a precursor to entry into the labour market, and unequal salary structures, environmental barriers and physical accessibility are additional constraints which preclude full and equal participation in the mainstream labour sector. This study identified the efficacy of narrative inquiry etched within an integrated theoretical approach as the promise that disability studies has been waiting for. A crucial step in re-writing the historically disabling scripts related to the “disabled identity”, as a means to lobby for more inclusive strategies in the workplace, involves truly listening to the polyphony of individual voices from an emancipatory perspective.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Gelyke werksgeleenthede en indiensneming vorm die grondslag van die sosiale, ekonomiese en politieke bedeling in 'n kapitalistiese samelewing. Die aanname is dat die meerderheid individue tussen die ouderdomme van 18 en 65 besoldigde betrekkings kan beklee waarin hulle belangstel. Ten spyte van die verskuiwing na 'n demokrasie wat gebaseer is op die beginsels van die Menseregtebeweging, is individue met gestremdhede steeds deel van 'n ekonomies benadeelde groepering as gevolg van diskriminasie en vooroordele in die werksplek. Hierdie situasie word vererger deur die deurlopende impak van 'n tekort aan vaardighede, beperkte toegang tot onderwys en opleiding, werkgewers se beperkte bewustheid van individue met gestremdheid se behoeftes en potensiaal, ontoeganklike werksomgewings en leemtes in beleidsontwikkeling. Die doel van hierdie narratiewe ondersoek was daarom 'n verkenning van alternatiewe verhale van ses individue met fisiese gestremdheid wat werksaam is in die ope arbeidsmark ten einde insig te kry in hul individuele ervarings van hindernisse en ondersteuning in die werksplek. Die metodologie van hierdie studie kan tipeer word as 'n narratiewe ondersoekbenadering wat gevestig is in 'n krities-emansipatoriese navorsingsparadigma. Die lens van die studie was dus 'n geïntegreerde teoretiese benadering van post-strukturalistiese en sosio-konstruksionistiese denke en "episodes" van Lakan se psigoanalise om aspekte van geïnternaliseerde onderdrukking te verstaan. Ses individue met fisiese gestremdheid wat werksaam is in die ope arbeidsmark is doelbewus gekies uit drie werksplekke. Data is gegenereer deur twee ongestruktureerde narratiewe onderhoude in die vorm van vertellings oor persoonlike ervarings (Squire, 2008; Riessman, 1993) en lewensverhale (Atkinson, 1998). Die deelnemers se unieke lewenservarings en hul konstruksie en handhawing van hul professionele identiteit in die werksplek was die fokus van die datagenerering. 'n Tweeledige proses van analise (eers beskrywend, daarna interpreterend) is gevolg om die teks te struktureer en te interpreteer. Beskrywende analise, gebaseer op Clandinin en Connelly se driedimensionele narratiewe ruimte, behels die oorvertel van deelnemers se persoonlike ervaring en lewensverhale. Die interpreterende analise daarenteen gebruik tematiese analise en sintese van die universele stories. Die sentrale tema van die narratiewe is dat gestremdheid steeds gekonseptualiseer word as minderwaardig, ten spyte van hierdie individue se ongekende lojaliteit, min afwesigheid, toegewydheid en omvang van vaardighede, talente en vermoëns. Die stigma, vrese en onkundigheid wat daarmee gepaard gaan lei tot marginalisering. Baie persone met gestremdhede het steeds nie toegang tot onderwys en opleidingsgeleenthede nie en voldoen dus nie aan die vereistes wat gestel word vir toegang tot die arbeidsmark nie. Oneweredige salarisstrukture, hindernisse in die omgewing en fisiese toeganklikheid belemmer volledige en gelyke deelname in die ope arbeidsmark. Hierdie studie bevestig die bruikbaarheid van narratiewe navorsing en 'n geïntegreerde teoretiese benadering in gestremdheidstudies. 'n Belangrike stap is die herskryf van die historiese beskouings van onbekwaamheid en “gestremde identiteit” as 'n poging om te onderhandel vir meer inklusiewe strategieë in die werkplek. Dit behels opregte luister na die individuele stemme vanuit 'n emansipatoriese perspektief.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/17927
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